Right now, COVID-19 is proving to be particularly challenging for people living with dementia, caregivers and families:
- For people with dementia who live alone, you are likely finding that social distancing, self-isolation and other changes are upending your daily routine which is important for living well with dementia and maintaining your independence.
- For caregivers, these changes can lead to increased feelings of stress, anxiety and confusion for both you and the person you care for. These negative feelings can lead to worsening symptoms in the person’s dementia.
- As a caregiver, it’s also important to have a plan in the event that you become ill or need to self-quarantine.
- Many people living with dementia also depend on others to help with their daily needs. This can make social distancing a challenge for everyone involved, including members of the public
The Alzheimer Society has practical tips and advice to help you stay healthy, safe and prepared through the pandemic:
Tips for people with dementia who live alone
- Stay connected with family, friends and neighbours. Even though you may be stuck at home, that doesn’t mean you have to limit your conversations with people you know and trust. Use technology to stay in touch – try using a video chat application like FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom to get the most out of “face-to-face” conversation.
- Stay calm and plan ahead. Your plan should include making a list of important numbers and display it somewhere prominent. Include the numbers of your local public health unit, your healthcare provider, your local Alzheimer Society and emergency contacts. Should you become ill, it’s important to know which family members, friends and/or neighbours are able to help you.
- Try these handwashing tips. Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect yourself from getting the disease. Here are a few suggestions to help you ensure you’re washing your hands regularly:
- Post reminders in key locations, like by the front door so it’s the first thing you see when you get home.
- Set a regular reminder to wash your hands using your computer, phone or alarm clock.
- Print and follow these handwashing guidelines. This may be one of the reminders you want to post by your front door.
Tips for caregivers
- Know how to explain COVID-19 to the person you’re caring for.Think about what you want to say ahead of time – would using the word “virus” scare the person, for example? Perhaps “flu” or “bug” is a better choice. You should also think about questions the person may ask and consider what your responses should be. Above all, speak calmly, be patient and focus on the positive. Your reassurance will go a long way.
- Ensure that the person living with dementia maintains good hygiene.If you are trying to limit how often they touch their face, keep their hands busy with activities they enjoy, like knitting or painting, or chores, like folding towels. Do your best. But accept that you may not be able to limit the number of times the person touches their face.
- Know what to do if you or the person you are caring for has COVID-19:
- If you think that you may have it, contact your healthcare provider or local public health agency for guidance. If you need to self-isolate, it’s good to ask family members, friends and/or neighbours beforehand if they can help support you and the person living with dementia.
- If you think the person you’re caring for has COVID-19, monitor the person’s condition carefully. They might have trouble communicating how they feel. Watch for symptoms like increased confusion. If the person’s confusion increases rapidly, contact your healthcare provider for guidance.
- In either case, always disinfect frequently touched surfaces, routinely wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
Tips for the public
- We encourage everyone to check in on the caregivers in your community and social circles. Ask if they need help and offer to run errands.
- Simple gestures such as this can make a big difference for individuals and families facing dementia, who already experience higher levels of social isolation and loneliness at the best of times. It’s important that we all be there for them during this difficult period.
What else should you know
Better care for all during COVID-19
While we don’t know exactly how long this pandemic will go on for, we do know it’s not going away any time soon. We also know that COVID-19 has exposed gaps in dementia care across Canada’s health and long-term care systems.
That’s why, in response to growing needs and concerns for the support of people living with dementia, caregivers and families, we’ve brought together the COVID-19 and Dementia Task Force. This team is made up of top researchers, clinicians and dementia specialists from across Canada. The Task Force will help us address these gaps and create solutions that will immediately improve care and support for people living with dementia.
Donors make all this possible
We are deeply grateful to our donors for their strong outpouring of thoughtful messages and generous donations at a time when those with dementia are relying on our support more than ever. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to our mission and for all you are doing to help defeat dementia.
Take action to support people living with dementia
You can help us keep pace with the growing demand for the vital information and services we provide to Canadians living with dementia by becoming a fundraiser right now.
Sign up for the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s online – and start raising funds that will support people living with dementia in your community.
No matter what, we are here to help
As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves, know that the Alzheimer Society is committed to helping you. We are here to ensure you receive the care and support you need.
Alzheimer Societies across Canada continue to adapt the way they provide support for you and your family during these uncertain times. Please connect with your local Alzheimer Society for more information. Our expert staff are also available to respond to your questions by email or telephone.